Mark Greaney: The BACK BLAST Interview

Elise Cooper: How did the Gray Man series come about?

Mark Greaney: I submitted the plot to my agent who told me that the sub-plot should be what the book is about. He said it is much more interesting to have the hunter being chased. This cat and mouse chase turned into the Gray Man series. My agent also helped me with the name of the series, changing it from the Goon Squad to this series title. The Gray Man name came out of the Special Ops community, which is how they refer to maintaining a low profile.

EC: Did you base Denny Carmichael on anyone?

MG: I do hope readers’ dislike this character. It is less about the real world and more about the world the writer created. But readers can think of people like J. Edgar Hoover. Carmichael thought of himself as a good guy. He felt Court’s life was a small price to pay to get information that would help the US, that the end justifies the means. He saw it as a win-win.

EC: Why the reporter Catherine King?

MG: She was based on some real national security reporters. What the Gray Man had done all over the world is now happening in Washington DC. I thought it would be interesting to have reporters trying to figure out what is going on and how the press would deal with it. I think Catherine has a lot of integrity. My father was in TV news, head of the NBC affiliate in Tennessee. Because of his experience I felt a deep understanding of the media since I have been around it.

EC: What about the firearms scenes?

MG: I do own a lot of weapons the characters use in my books. In researching this book I did a lot of firearms training with the leading arms instructor for naval special warfare. I also trained with a bunch of SWAT guys who had me be a part of the opposition force. The SWAT team came into a dark house with their flashlights to shoot me with paint balls. I was sore for weeks. Friends of mine are tactical officers whose brains I picked for a free breakfast.

EC: What about the drone used to help Court in one of his escapes?

MG: It is based on Robert Fulton’s Skyhook that the CIA came up with in the 1950s, used to rescue people from behind enemy lines. This is a modern version I created. The technology is a million times better today so who knows if there could be something like this, but I do not think I would get a patent recognition.

EC: Can you give a heads up about your next books?

MG: I will be writing another Clancy book out in December and then another Gray Man will be out next February. The setting for that book will be Southeast Asia. I think this next Court book will be less of a spy novel and more of a big action piece. I want to bring in some new characters. In future books all the previous characters like Catherine will come and go as the plot dictates.